Higher Education Quick Takes
The North Dakota Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to block a statewide referendum in June on whether the University of North Dakota should maintain its "Fighting Sioux" nickname, The Grand Forks Herald reported. The name has offended many Native Americans for years (though others have endorsed it and many of the university's athletic fans are passionate about it). The National Collegiate Athletic Association has imposed sanctions on colleges with such names and that has led the university's leaders, with some reluctance, to agree to change the name. But state lawmakers intervened with a law blocking a name change, and when they reversed themselves, an item was placed on the June ballot to preserve the name.
Robert Kelley, president of the University of North Dakota, issued a statement after the Supreme Court announced that it would not block a state vote. "Now that the North Dakota Supreme Court has made its decision, it is important that the voters of North Dakota become fully educated about the potential ramifications of their vote on this issue in June," he said. "[I]f the referendum is passed in June, the University of North Dakota will remain under NCAA sanctions and that this will have a damaging effect on UND’s athletics teams, and will compromise recruitment, scheduling and UND’s relationship with other collegiate athletics programs.
A 50 percent improvement in community college graduation rates would create $5.3 billion in taxpayer revenue as well as $30 billion more in lifetime income for the 160,000 new graduates, according to a study by Mark Schneider, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Lu Michelle Yin, an economist and researcher at the American Institutes for Research. The report praised Valencia College for its "competency-based model," and said community colleges could boost graduation rates by streamlining the degree path, using more online courses and borrowing innovations from for-profit colleges.
Unite Here, a labor group, announced Tuesday that Harvard University was going to stop investing in HEI Hospitality, a company accused of unfair treatment of its workers (a charge it has denied). The Unite Here announcement said that Harvard was joining "a growing trend of universities across the country distancing themselves" from the company. The group released e-mail messages from Harvard officials to confirm the decision. But those e-mail messages said that the reason for the decision had nothing to do with the accusations made by Unite Here against HEI. An e-mail from the head of the Harvard Management Company said: "Harvard Management Company has decided not to reinvest in funds managed by HEI. Importantly, this decision was based on factors related to the HMC portfolio and its strategy and needs; not on concerns about HEI's practices."
The U.S. Education Department has told Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, in Indiana, to repay $42 million in grant and loans funds that the agency says the college was not eligible to award, the Associated Press reported. The department said that the college classified many students as being in telecommunications courses when their proper category was correspondence courses. The aid and loan funds provided are not permitted at institutions with a large share of students in correspondence courses. College officials said that they had done nothing wrong and would challenge the finding.
Professors at the University of Ottawa, in Canada, want the right to bar laptops from their classrooms, CTV Ottawa News reported. Marcel Turcotte, one of the professors pushing the idea, said of his students: "They are distracted and we are competing with that for their attention.... You see one student who is really not listening, would be watching the video and then it's kind of contagious." A faculty vote is planned for May.
Since 2008, California State University has settled seven cases brought by whistle-blowers who brought charges of wrongdoing to the attention of superiors, and said that they were subsequently punished for doing so, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. The story focuses on Justin Schwartz, a lecturer at Cal State East Bay who reported that a colleague in the recreation department spent university funds to buy himself a $4,000 bike, gym passes and sailing equipment. The campus investigation confirmed the allegations. Schwartz is now out of a job (the university says that's because of budget cuts). The man he accused is still employed.
The Australian government today unveiled a new website designed to give would-be applicants (domestically and internationally) to the country's 39 public universities information about everything from their fees, faculty credentials and student graduation outcomes to their child-care services and campus pubs, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. Federal officials (sounding like their American counterparts) said they hoped the transparency provided by MyUniversity would "help drive universities to lift performance and quality." Campus officials told the newspaper (privately) that they are skeptical.
Israel's Council for Higher Education is expected to soon adopt a new rule that all of those named as university presidents must be professors, Haaretz reported. The move follows a controversy over the selection of a non-academic to be president of the University of Haifa. The new rule is not expected to be retroactive, so it would not invalidate the selection at Haifa.
Employers expect to hire 10.2 percent more new college graduates in 2012 than they did in 2011, the National Association of Colleges and Employers said in its spring outlook on Monday. That's slightly higher than the 9.5 percent increase that the employers projected when surveyed last fall, suggesting that their view of the economy is continuing to brighten. The job numbers are of increasing relevance to college officials as they seek to respond to growing concerns about recession-fueled student debt and to public pressure on them to report their job placement rates.